Physics Major Worried about Career Options

In summary, the conversation discusses the concerns of a physics major at Cornell regarding their career prospects. The individual loves physics but is worried about being underpaid and unemployable in the future. They are considering options such as graduate school, engineering, or working between physics and business. The conversation also highlights the importance of specializing in a more employable and desirable area of physics in order to increase the chances of employment after graduation.
  • #1
whalebunt08
3
0
Hi,

I'm a physics major at Cornell and after reading a few of the threads on this site, I'm worried I might not end up with the career I'm expecting. I love physics, and have been planning on going to graduate school for my Ph.D. But I'm not sure I love physics enough to be unemployable and underpaid when I'm older... I couldn't see myself ever doing something like investment banking (I tend to see a job where your only contribution to the world is to make the rich richer as fairly unsatisfying), but what are my other options in terms of graduate school, engineering or other fields once I have my BA in physics? Is there some kind of compromise, like working between physics and business? I should have at least a 3.8 or so (first year 3.0, last three ~4.0) when I graduate...
 
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  • #2
We have had several thread on this issue. I think whenever such question had been asked, there is one important factor that is seldom considered - the area of specialization, especially at the Ph.D level.

I have seen first hand during the late 80's/early 90's where we had news report of physics Ph.D's driving cabs to make a living. Yet, I know for a fact that there were physics Ph.D that had job offers even before they even completed their thesis defense! So what could be the difference between those people? One had a degree in some esoteric theoretical area, while the other had a degree in something more employable such as medical physics or experimental condensed matter physics with skills in things such as thin film laser ablation. What you specialize in, and the kinds of skills that you have acquired determine your employability by a large degree.

Physics major and physics PhD are not all the same. While there are no guarantees in any area of study on one's employment after graduation, and certainly not in physics, there ARE more employable and desirable areas of study that have a relatively higher probability of employment in those areas of study than others.

Zz.
 
  • #3


Hi there,

I can understand your concerns about career options as a physics major. It is true that careers in physics can be limited, but that doesn't mean there aren't many opportunities for those with a degree in physics. In fact, a physics degree is highly valued in many industries because it demonstrates strong problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, and a strong foundation in mathematics and science.

Firstly, I want to assure you that pursuing a Ph.D. in physics is a valuable and worthwhile endeavor. It will open up many opportunities for you in academia, research, and even industry. Many companies, especially in the technology and engineering sectors, are always looking for individuals with advanced degrees in physics to help develop new products and technologies.

However, if you are looking for a career outside of traditional physics fields, there are many options available to you. As you mentioned, engineering is a great field to consider as it combines the principles of physics with practical applications. You could also consider pursuing a graduate degree in fields like computer science, data science, or even finance. Many companies in these industries value individuals with a strong background in physics because of their problem-solving abilities and analytical thinking.

Additionally, there are many roles that require a mix of technical and business skills, such as project management, consulting, and entrepreneurship. These roles often require individuals who can bridge the gap between technical and non-technical teams, making a physics degree a valuable asset.

In conclusion, I want to encourage you to continue pursuing your passion for physics. With a strong academic record and a Ph.D., you will have many options available to you in both traditional and non-traditional fields. Keep an open mind and explore different industries and opportunities, and I am confident that you will find a fulfilling and rewarding career path. Best of luck to you!
 

Related to Physics Major Worried about Career Options

What kind of job opportunities are available for physics majors?

Physics majors have a wide range of career options available to them. Some common career paths include research and development, data analysis, engineering, teaching, and consulting. Graduates with a physics degree can also find employment in industries such as aerospace, defense, energy, and healthcare.

Will I be able to find a job with a physics major?

Yes, there is a high demand for individuals with a physics degree. Employers value the analytical and problem-solving skills that physics majors possess, making them attractive candidates for various industries. It is also worth noting that many physics majors go on to pursue graduate studies, which can open up even more job opportunities.

What can I do to make myself more marketable as a physics major?

One way to make yourself more marketable is by gaining practical experience through internships, research projects, or part-time jobs. These experiences can help you develop important skills and make valuable connections in your field. Additionally, consider taking courses or gaining experience in a specific area of physics that interests you, as this can make you stand out to potential employers.

Is a physics major a good choice if I am unsure of my career goals?

Yes, a physics major can be a great choice for those who are unsure of their career goals. The critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities that you develop as a physics major are highly transferable and can be applied to a variety of fields. Additionally, the broad scope of physics can expose you to different areas and industries, helping you to discover your interests and passions.

What salary can I expect with a physics major?

The salary for physics majors varies depending on factors such as job title, location, and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physicists and astronomers was $122,220 in May 2020. However, as with any career, salaries can range significantly, and your earning potential may also increase with advanced degrees or specialized skills.

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